Depending on your location, cannabis products can be hard to come by. Luckily, hemp-based treatments are available in all 50 states and can provide some of the same relief. Hemp products are high in CBD, a cannabis compound that has lauded medical uses but doesn’t cause the psychoactive high that comes with THC.
Leafly spoke with both vets at the Green Flower Media Cannabis Health Summit in Los Angeles to find out what pet owners should know before they start a treatment regimen.
Silver pointed to decades-old government research that found that, of all species, dogs have the highest density of THC receptors in their hind brain. That, he said, makes them extremely sensitive to its effects. Because THC exists at such low levels in hemp products, it means a lower risk of overconsumption.
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Signs of overconsumption can include vomiting, diarrhea, trouble with equilibrium, or seeming zoned-out or spacey.
That’s why Dr. Greg Richter, a veterinarian in California, and Dr. Rob Silver, a holistic vet and pet herbalist in Colorado, have working in home states and beyond to educate pet owners and legislators on the benefits of treating pets with cannabis. Silver has even published a book, Medical Marijuana & Your Pet: The Definitive Guide, which draws on his research and experience to help people determine whether cannabinoid treatment is right for your animal.
In California, Richter has been leading the push for legislation that would legalize “compassionate use” of cannabis for animals in the same way the state has approved medical cannabis for humans. He’s created an online petition calling for a change that would allow vets to “provide guidance to people regarding the safe and effective use of cannabis for their pets.”
Silver added that because many veterinarians risk their licenses and criminal prosecution for prescribing cannabis to pets, they have to be very careful in how they talk about the plant. “As far as our First Amendment freedom of speech to speak directly about this,” he said, “if we’re not giving medical advice—if we’re giving educational information—it’s a much easier situation.”
While the placebo group and the low CBD group showed no improvement, by the end of the one month period, the group of dogs who took higher doses of CBD or used CBD in a liposomal formulation saw significant improvement in their mobility and quality of life.
These results add additional scientific backing to the emerging market of CBD for pets. There is currently a wide variety of products geared towards dogs and other pets. According to the Brightfield Group, a consumer research group focused on the cannabis space, the US Pet CBD market expanded by more than 10 times its 2018 size in 2019, producing $321 million in sales. In 2020 it is projected to reach $563 million in sales.
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CBD dog treats are part of an emerging market of CBD products for pets, projected to reach $563 . [+] million in sales during 2020.
Canine osteoarthritis is an inflammatory condition marked by pain, stiffness, and loss of mobility. And it can leave dogs lethargic, irritable and reluctant to play, run or jump. Unfortunately, the condition is all too common in dogs. Researchers estimate that it affects at least 20% of all dogs older than 1 year old, with higher risk for older dogs.
Gary Richter, a veterinarian in Oakland, CA says he’s “certainly seen quite a number of dogs that are on either CBD or some other preparation of cannabis for the treatment of osteoarthritis and many of those dogs do very, very well.”
Why are we hearing so much about CBD oil now? Dr. Klein points to the legalization of marijuana in many places, which has triggered interest in potential health benefits of marijuana-related products. “We are likely to see continued interest in CBD and an increase in research about its uses and efficacy in the coming years,” he says.
The safety and risks of using CBD for dogs have not yet been researched. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved CBD and has not issued a dosing chart. Therefore, we do not know what size dosage would be toxic. Any medication or supplement carries the risk of a reaction. It is always advisable, when giving your dog something new, to start out with small amounts and then closely monitor the effects. And always check with your veterinarian first.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a compound found in cannabis and hemp. Dr. Klein says it is essential to note that in most cases, CBD oil does not contain delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound that gives marijuana its psychoactive properties. In fact, most CBD products are derived from hemp and not from marijuana.
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While there’s no scientific data on the side effects of CBD usage for dogs, there are potential side effects based on how CBD affects humans. To minimize any potential side effects, make sure you are following the proper dosage.
According to Dr. Klein, CBD is also used because of its anti-inflammatory properties, cardiac benefits, anti-nausea effects, appetite stimulation, anti-anxiety impact, and for possible anti-cancer benefits, although there’s no conclusive data on this use.
Currently, there has been no formal study on how CBD affects dogs. What scientists do know is that cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid receptors located in the central and peripheral nervous systems, which help maintain balance in the body and keep it in a normal healthy state.
Learn more about the CBD study funded by the Canine Health Foundation.